Labour’s John McDonnell ‘hopeful’ after latest Brexit talks with the Government
Labour’s John McDonnell has said he is “hopeful” as the latest Brexit talks between his party and the Government wrapped up.
Emerging from the Cabinet Office after the latest round of discussions aimed at breaking the deadlock over Britain’s European Union departure, the Shadow Chancellor said talks had been “constructive” and confirmed that the two sides were now “working out a timetable” for fresh discussions.
Describing the talks as “hopeful” and “positive”, the Labour frontbencher told reporters: “There’s a fair amount of detailed work that will go on over the next week to ten days and then we’ll see where we’re at."
Among other demands, Labour has been urging Theresa May to ditch her long-standing opposition to joining a post-Brexit customs union with the EU, a move that has already prompted fury from Eurosceptics in her own party.
But the Prime Minister - whose EU deal has been defeated in the Commons three times - raised hopes of a breakthrough when she told MPs on Thursday: "I think there is actually more agreement in relation to a customs union than is often given credit for when different language is used.”
Asked whether Mrs May had given ground on any of her Brexit red lines in the latest discussions, Mr McDonnell said: “We’re trying to be as constructive as we possibly can on all sides and we’re trying to be as positive as we possibly can.
“But we’ll see by the end of next week how far we’ve got.”
The Shadow Chancellor was also pressed on whether Labour had spoken to the government about a second referendum on any Brexit deal, telling the BBC: “It’s always on the table, of course. We raise that at each meeting.”
The latest batch of talks between the two sides come after Mrs May was granted a further Brexit delay, with the Article 50 process extended until 31 October following a crunch meeting of EU leaders.
The Prime Minister has said she still hopes to ratify a Brexit deal by 22 May so that the UK does not need to take part in the European Parliament elections the following day.
Chancellor Philip Hammond on Friday told the BBC on that taking part in the fresh European elections would be "pointless" - and urged MPs to "quickly" get behind a deal to allow a focus on other areas of public policy.
"Clearly nobody wants to fight the European elections,” he said.
"It feels like a pointless exercise and the only way we can avoid that is by getting a deal agreed and done quickly, and if we can do that by 22 May, we can avoid fighting the European parliamentary elections.
"In any case we want to ensure any British MEPs that are elected never have to take their seats in the European Parliament by ensuring this is all done well before the new European Parliament convenes."